Thursday, December 10, 2009

I just finished Get Real by Donald E. Westlake, the 14th, and probably last, of his Dortmunder novels.

Get Real is one of the better of the later novels. The setup is simple - Dortmunder and the gang get asked to be involved in a reality TV show about them doing a heist - and their is no nemesis figure like there has been in many of the more recent entries. It's just about them figuring out what to steal from whom, and how to do it.

Very enjoyable.

In reading this, I also looked up the movies that have been made of the various Dortmunder novels. I think Dortmunder must be one of the most filmed modern characters, although the characters name is almost always changed for the film. How many others have been played by a range of actors like Robert Redford, George C. Scott, Paul Le Mat, Christopher Lambert and Martin Lawrence? Sadly, the movies are almost all terrible.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This morning I finished Busted Flush, the latest in the Wild Cards series.

I was a fan of the original series, reading up to the tenth book in the series before losing track of it. This is the 2nd in a intended new trilogy, following up on the first book Inside Straight.

This book has the same flaws as Inside Straight, and makes some of those flaws clearer. For example, their use of more "ripper from the headlines" style settings doesn't work well. In Inside Straight, this was a reality TV show. In Busted Flush, it is a Katrina style flooding of New Orleans. Other flaws include too many characters, with too many switches of perspective, making it difficult to keep track of who's who.

A few days ago, I finished A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.

I'm a huge, huge fan of another Helprin book, A Winter's Tale. While A Soldier of the Great War doesn't live up to that standard, it is still a good, and enjoyable book.

It starts off in the present day, as a worker misses his bus and an old man gets off in sympathy and they decide to walk to their destinations, even though they are few days walk away. Along the way, the old man reluctantly starts talking about his life and his service during WW1. The story ranges from his early romances/crushes in Rome, to service in the trenches, to desertion and almost execution and then service in the Alps.

The scenes set in pre-war Italy feel like typical fin de si├Ęcle portraits of the time, the war is stereotypically horrible and stupid, so there aren't any real surprises here - just a well told story.